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Marionville Mayor Resigns, Citizens Hope to Begin Healing Process

Dan Clevenger (middle) on Monday night following his announcement to turn in his resignation Tuesday morning. (L-R) Alderwomen

Following comments from its top official that many citizens feel have painted a picture of racism on its town; Marionville Board of Aldermen on Monday addressed the growing criticism of its recently appointed mayor.

Dan Noyse: “You are a representative of us. We’re not a representative of you. What you say, what comes out of your mouth, is what we say, and I’m not racist.”

Katrina Bostick: “And I would just ask that if you love this town so much that you would resign. Because damage is done and I think that’s really the only way to begin the repairing of it.”

Bob Duda: “This is not about the 2,225 people that are in this town. This is about the comments made by one man, and that one man is you [Clevenger]. I am disgusted by your comments. The light that you shined on this town is horrible. Plain and simple.”

Dan Clevenger sat before a crowd of roughly 80 citizens, many of whom expressed anger that the man voters just elected had recently offered similar views to that of white supremacist Frazier Glenn Cross, the southwest Missouri man accused of killing three at a Jewish Community Center and nearby retirement home in Overland Park, Kansas.

Clevenger told local media in the days following Miller’s arrest that the two were once friends, and the mayor’s comments like this one given to Springfield television station KSPR drew the ire of Marionville citizens and such groups as the Anti-Defamation League.

“There’s some things going on in this country that’s destroying us. We got a false economy, and some of those corporations are run by Jews because the names are there,” Clevenger said.

The comments appear to be in line with that of a letter to the editor Clevenger issued nearly 10 years ago to the Aurora Advertiser, which stated in part, "I am a friend of Frazier Miller helping to spread his warnings. The Jew-run medical industry has succeeded in destroying the United States’ workforce."

Ahead of Monday’s meeting, I approached Clevenger outside his engine repair shop, where he refused to comment further on the issue, stating only “It won’t do any good… it will just get misconstrued.”

He remained mum during that evening’s meeting, speaking mainly to fulfill his mayoral duty to move the agenda along. But near the conclusion of a rather unstructured public comment period which drew at times raucous applause, tearful speeches, and shouting from the crowd, and prior to a vote to impeach which had the backing of four out of five aldermen, Clevenger relinquished.

“Instead of dragging this town through any more of the mess, I’ll turn in my letter of resignation at 8 o’clock in the morning.”

Clevenger had only a few additional words after the meeting when surrounded by reporters:

REPORTER: "Do you regret any of your actions?"

Clevenger: "Yes I do."

REPORTER: "And what is that?"

Clevenger: "The statement I made. And that’s all I got to say. One statement."

REPORTER: "The statement 10 years ago?"

Clevenger: "Yes."

REPORTER: "OK. And what about any of your recent remarks?"

Clevenger: "That’s it. We’re done."

The decision, which will require formal approval at the next Aldermen meeting, will not sit well with some who spoke of free speech as a defense for Clevenger, blamed the media for “exploiting” the mayor’s comments, or that held a sign reading “Ain’t no guilt by association.”

Phillip Harter, a former Marionville aldermen, connected the publicity to an attempt to strip Clevenger of his mayoral victory earlier this month.

“I think it’s really sad that members of our town that were so embittered over this election, were willing to paint our entire community with that brush, by making those initial phone calls and stirring this whole thing up and painting this,” Harter said.

Harter said for the board to make a decision based upon the reports in the media “would be prejudice,” and encouraged them to decide upon “the person sitting in that chair,” adding that he believes Clevenger not to be a racist, but an official who, in his time as aldermen, worked to do the right thing for citizens.

Noting the vast negativity that’s been brought to Marionville in recent days, Debbie Sallee released numbers provided to her by the city that show as of Monday, City Hall had received 152 calls related to Mayor Clevenger’s statements and calling for his resignation, plus 11 letters since April 16.

“I think it is important for the citizens of our community to ensure that the community, the nation and the world understand that the hate-filled comments of this newly-elected mayor do not represent the majority of citizens of Marionville, Missouri,” Sallee said.

Upon adjournment Monday following Clevenger’s announcement to resign, those in favor of the decision said they can now begin the healing process and work to bring a divided community back together. But some admit it could be a long road ahead.